Dangers that lurk beyond the break
Surf Patrol 8pm, Seven
IF it’s not already part of the in- flight entertainment on planes coming into Australia, Surf Patrol should be mandatory viewing for all passengers as they prepare to land. What are we famous for, if not our beaches, our beach babes and the clubbies, those fit and tireless fellows ( and girls) whose aim in life is to keep you from losing yours in the water?
The program offers an insight into the challenges faced by Australian lifesavers. It glorifies the beach and at the same time warns of the dangers. Pretty though that pristine- looking water is, take it for granted, fail to respect it, and it could kill you.
Australian beaches are not just tourist magnets; they occupy a special place in the national psyche. As Robert Drewe noted in the introduction to the 2006 anthology The Penguin Book of the Beach: ‘‘ Many, if not most, Australians have their first sexual experience on the coast and as a consequence see the beach in a sensual and nostalgic light. Thereafter, the beach is not only a regular summer pleasure and balm but an idee fixe which fulfils an almost ceremonial need at each critical physical and emotional stage.’’ Perhaps this also explains our attraction to shows about the beach.
I suppose it could be argued that Baywatch ( 1989- 2001) did the same thing for Californian beaches. But Californian beaches are, by comparison, dead ugly. And Baywatch was a soapie, a dreadful hodgepodge of contrived beach action and appalling performances, with plots limper than last week’s lettuce.
While it belongs loosely under the reality umbrella, Surf Patrol has its share of drama. There are no scripts here. When a man dies, a man dies.
Tonight a swimmer goes missing at Brunswick Heads, just north of Byron Bay on the NSW north coast. Lifeguards and emergency services personnel swing into action. Within minutes of sending out an emergency call, the team on the beach is joined by the lifesaver helicopter crew. But when the young man, a 20- year- old local, has been missing for more than an hour, hope begins to fade. His anxious family arrives and can only wait on the sea wall for news.
‘‘ I think if you’re a lifesaver, you don’t want to see lives lost,’’ says Mark Edwards of Brunswick Surf Life Saving Club. ‘‘ That’s what we train for, and that’s what we’re about. So when something like this happens, we all take it a bit personally.’’
Action, beaches, tragedy, heroism and lovable characters. For a reality show, Surf Patrol is as engaging as any fine drama.
Real- life drama: A small boy is lucky to be rescued from rough surf